Das Bild im Boden is a series of over one hundred works produced between 1986 and 2015 as part of the Archives du futur project, begun in 1975 by the husband-and-wife team Chérif and Silvie Defraoui and continued by Silvie after Chérif’s death in 1994. Each work consists of one or more cement floor tiles adorned with round, rectangular, square, strip, or triangle adhesives. They are then displayed on wooden bases on the wall. The tiles are somewhat irregular in shape due to the manufacturing process and are also worn from use. Silvie Defraoui picked them up over the years at building renovation sites and an architectural salvage yard outside Barcelona.
The simple fact of adding geometric adhesives interferes with each tile’s original ornamental design, heightening its impact and energy by evoking faces. The work uses a deeply simple visual language based on the underlying pattern. In the Archives du futur catalogue raisonné, Silvie Defraoui described the Das Bild im Boden series, whose name means ‘the picture in the floor’ in German: ‘From the dawn of time, faces have appeared in clouds, lakes, and stains on old walls’. This statement points to the fact that pictures do not exist without an audience and sometimes arise from the viewer’s own subjective interpretation. Yet unlike the pictures that we see in clouds, created by our own perception, Defraoui’s creations are deliberate.
The artist clearly nudges us to read faces in the tiles, reminding us that, as Dario Gamboni wrote in 2009, ‘ornamentation is never far removed from imagery’. When Silvie Defraoui began the series, she was reacting to the success of the abstract Neo-Geo school in and around Geneva. She set out to uncover the origins of abstraction, which she attributed to Islamic decoration. The tiles found in Spain do reflect a Middle Eastern influence, which Defraoui’s intervention layers with other visual cultures such as pictography.
Silvie & Chérif Defraoui – Archives du Futur, online catalogue raisonné: https://archives-du-futur.ch/, Vufflens-le-Château, Association Archives du Futur Defraoui, 2021: n. 40.16.1-30.
Jean-Paul Fellay and Olivier Kaeser (eds.), Silvie Defraoui. Things Are Different from What They Are Not, exh. cat. (exhibition title: Silvie Defraoui. Sombras eléctricas) Paris, Centre culturel Suisse, 2009.
Denys Zacharopoulos, Daniel Kurjakovic and Konrad Bitterli, Defraoui. Archives du futur 1975-2004, exh. cat. Saint Gall, Kunstverein St. Gallen Kunstmuseum, Geneva, Mamco, Thessalonique, Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art, Nuremberg, Verlag für moderne Kunst, 2014: 158-159.